Christmas Eve Day Communion: History & Hope

Burnham Abbey – Christmas Eve Day Mass – 9:30
December 24th, 2020
Revd Sue Lepp

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16
Acts 13:16-26
Luke 1:67-79

Zacharias and Elizabeth 1913-4 Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959 Purchased jointly with Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, the Friends of the Tate Gallery, Howard and Roberta Ahmanson and private benefactors 1999

It is poignant, maybe more this year than previous, that the Christmas Eve Day readings for Communion are centred around history and hope. 2020 is of course the year that many will want to forget with all the ups & downs, uncertainties and disappointments that we have faced. One day it will indeed be history but not quite yet. 2020 also brought about challenges and questions about how history is marked and remembered through Black Lives Matter, the slave trade and the memorials dotted about the country to people who did do good things but profited off the lives and labour of the powerless.

All three of the readings speak of history – God reminds David via the prophet Nathan of where God found David (in the pasture) to being ‘prince over my people Israel’ to what God will do for David in the future, ‘I will make for you a great name; your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever’.

Paul was speaking in the synagogue in Antioch when he reminded the Jews there of their history and all that God had done for them. Paul then continues Israel’s story, going further than the Jews of the day were willing, when he told them of Jesus and John the Baptist with their message of salvation to the descendants of Abraham.

It is important to remember our history, to learn from it and be reminded that we are part of a bigger story and that God is on our side. There is no better history to be a part of than his!

Zechariah, in his beautiful words of the Benedictus, recalls his history too. He had been silent for many months and finally his tongue is loosened, he is filled with the Holy Spirit, praises God, and blesses those who were there to hear it. It should not be lost on us that Zechariah fell silent before he could complete his final temple duty the day that the angel paid him a visit many months before. Beth Moore writes: ‘the priest would customarily return to the courtyard after completing his tasks and bless the people. On Zechariah’s big day, the people waited outside for a blessing they didn’t get. He had accomplished everything else, but he never got to speak that benediction. For nine months a benediction had been mounting in the old priest with every fresh evidence of God’s faithfulness. When God finally loosed that tongue, it was like a calf loosed from a stall.’ (Jesus: The One & Only, p. 24)

Zechariah explains that God’s intricate plan of redemption was because of ‘tender mercy of our God.’ God is many things – righteous, judging, holy, faithful and deeply feeling. God not only feels for us, but He also acts for us.
The dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

God’s tender mercy is as fresh today as it was in the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth 2000 years ago. My prayer is that as we go into Christmas and 2021 that the tender mercy will be evident to all. We need to watch for the dawn that will break from on high. God bless you and keep you. May you know his great mercy upon you this day and always.